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It’s a Saturday night and my husband is getting ready to head out to our local Fireman’s Ball Charity Event. In the past few years I’ve happily attended the event with him, as it is a fun way to raise greatly needed funds for essential services in our small community.
But this year I’m almost 38 weeks pregnant and putting on a dress to sit in a chair for a few hours is not something that I want to sign up for. Plus, my introverted nature is craving a night alone after having a house full of people after hosting a training camp for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team the week prior. A week before the event I announce “I’m not going to come to the Fireman’s Ball this year, maybe we can find a friend to go with you?”
“Sure, no problem.” Says my husband with a smile.
For the majority of our 12 year relationship, occasionally opting out of a social outing was something I would want to do, yet not a conversation I was comfortable of having. My husband is a total extrovert, he is loud, he gets completely energized from being in a group and absolutely loves to meet new people as much as possible. As a people lover myself, I was often torn between wanting to hang out with friends or family, and knowing how much I needed time alone as a bonafide introvert.
For died-in-the-wool extroverts, it can be challenging to understand why it is tough for an introvert to navigate social outings and spending lots of time with people. ‘Don’t you want to have fun?!’ At least that was the case for my husband, as I struggled to gain the courage to share with him what I really needed as I learned about the differences between extroversion and introversion in my mid-twenties.
I began to call it ‘learning to honour my introversion’ because unlike the textbook introvert, I am outgoing, I’m not shy and I really do love talking to people (hello, personal trainer and fitness instructor for the last 13 years…). The more I embraced my inner introvert, the happier I was. I had more energy when I was at work and with loved ones when I had spent some time alone in the days previous. I also had significantly less resentment towards my husband when I told him what I needed rather than wishing he would just understand what being an introvert was like.
These days I happily embrace my inner introvert, but I’ve learned a few important lessons that have helped me live a healthy and balanced life that includes great relationships with my husband, family and friends.
If you or someone close to you is struggling to honour their introverted nature, here are five ways I’ve been able to strike the balance that works for me as an extroverted introvert, or people-loving introvert as I like to call it!
This is especially important if your significant other is the opposite personality type than you, which is actually incredibly common. Sometimes my husband needs to remind me that a day spent at home, listening to the radio, going for a walk outside and reading a book is the opposite of energizing for him, ha!
When we make a habit of verbally sharing (without anger or frustration) with our loved ones that we need space or time alone, not only will they begin to understand what we need, they will be more on board with making it happen. Our loved ones will see that, yes, when she needs that space and I give it to her, she comes back energized, more patient and more loving.
Spending effort and energy wishing that our loved ones would be able to read us and know exactly what we need is a massive waste of time. Just stop doing this because it’s extremely ineffective. People are not mind readers, and tend to do really well when they receive clear communication.
Work that vocal muscle and speak up! It gets much, much easier over time and sets the tone for great communication and understanding in your relationships too.
Ohh isn’t this the crux of being an introvert! Do you actually need to re-energize or do you just want to play it safe?
This is a question I ask myself constantly, and sometimes the answer is that I do want to avoid people to play it safe. Being alone is more predictable, easier to control and just simpler. But when we stay away from people to protect ourselves we fail to learn, and fail to grow.
You can absolutely be an introvert and make a regular commitment to getting out of your comfort zone. Plus, it will give you way more material to process and introspect about when you do spend time with yourself in the future.
When you’re well into the habit of honouring your introversion, finding fun things to do on your own is likely the least of your challenges. What am I going to do? Whatever the hell I want!
My favourite alone time activities include walking outdoors, cooking, reading, writing, meditating, and snuggling my cats! When I write that out I see that I must be nailing this ‘honour your introversion’ thing.
If you’re new to carving out more alone time, here is a great question to get you started:
If you had one day to do whatever you wanted (it could be lying around watching TV all day) and no one would know what you spent your day doing, what would you do? What would your ideal day look like?
Start by answering this question and then use it as a clue to lead you towards what you really want to do when you get that glorious time on your own.
Honouring your introversion is not selfish. It is not a luxury. It is a requirement for your personality type, it is how you follow your own operating instructions. We spend more time caring for our vehicles than we do our unique personality traits these days.
If your attempts at honouring your introversion bring about complaints from your friends or family, you’ll need to understand that it takes everyone in your life some time to learn about your new way of operating. This process probably took me three solid years. I said no to more social events, but thoroughly enjoyed the ones I said yes to!
I dealt with blow back from my husband because I was acting differently than I had for years before. I had always been a ‘yes’ girl and had gone along with almost anything he suggested, leaving my own need for solo recharge on the back burner.
When I began to snap at him less, and was obviously much happier, more content and relaxed with life in general, he also began to embrace and encourage my introversion. I would hear him talking to his friends and asking if their significant others were introverts, LOL!
Our loved ones want us to be happy, they do not want to be the source of resentment that can be easily avoided with a small amount of clear communication.
When it comes to spending time with our favourite people, quality is more important than quantity. You’ll have much better quality time with friends and family when you can fully be present and not wish you were somewhere else, doing something else.
As much as it can be tough to teach the people in our lives about our desire for more alone time, it can be equally as difficult to convince ourselves that it is important.
You’ll need to stick to your guns here. This can be a great way to practice keeping your word to others, and even more importantly to yourself. When you say you are going to spend time alone, follow through. Schedule a massage, get out for a walk without the kids, or take a book to a quiet coffee shop.
For an introvert, alone time is like the oxygen mask theory. We cannot be helpful and loving to others in a sustainable way if we don’t help ourselves first. Put on your oxygen mask and then you’ll actually be of use to others in your life.
If you’re a closeted introvert or looking to understand the introverted person you love, remember that communication without judgement is key. Wishing you a confident and re-energizing journey as you figure out how to honour your own introversion.
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